sponges text index | photo index
Phylum Porifera
Yellow prickly branching sponge
Pseudoceratina purpurea*
Family Pseudoceratinidae
updated Oct 2016
Where seen? This rubbery prickly sponge usually yellow or with yellow tips is commonly seen on coral rubble on many of our Southern shores.

Features: Extremely variable in shape from knobs, lobes, to slender branching stems (8-12cm) emerging from an encrusting base (20-30cm). The sponge can cover large areas of coral rubble or small stones. Tips rounded or flattened. The surface feels rubbery and slippery with small bumps that appear spiky and prickly when the sponge is out of water. There are many tiny holes sprinkled all over the sponge. Colours range from bright yellow, green-yellow to olive. Often mainly dark or olive green with yellowish tips. The sponge's species name 'purpurea' means purple. Which seems rather odd as they are not purple at all when alive. A dead sponge, however, rapidly oxidises to a dark brown or deep purple. As taxonomic work on sponges is often based on preserved specimens, this is probably how this sponge got its scientific name.

Sometimes confused with Mustard sponge (Dactylospongia elegans, Family Thorectidae) can look very similar. The two kinds of sponges are difficult to tell apart in the field.

Sponging clams: Sometimes, the sponge is inhabited by Sponge finger oysters (Vulsella sp.), a kind of clam that lives only in sponges. These are completely covered by the sponge, with only a slit on the surface of the sponge where the bivalve's shell opening is. Often, these bivalves result in flat blade or leaf-like protrusions in the sponge.

Human uses: This sponge contains the chemical psammaplin A which is reported to be a powerful blocker of several components of the processing machinery in cancer cells, preventing them from growing and dividing. More details.

Beting Bemban Besar, May 11

Usually dark with yellow tips.

Many tiny holes on a bumpy surface.

St. John's Island, Oct 11

A Sponge finger oyster
embedded in the sponge.

Sisters Island, Jan 12

St. John's Island, Sep 04

Sisters Islands, Dec 05

Pulau Salu, Aug 10

Pulau Pawai, Dec 09

Pulau Biola, Dec 09

Terumbu Berkas, Jan 10

*Species are difficult to positively identify without close examination.
On this website, they are grouped by external features for convenience of display.

Yellow prickly branching sponges on Singapore shores

Photos of Yellow prickly branching sponges for free download from wildsingapore flickr

Distribution in Singapore on this wildsingapore flickr map



  • Lim Swee Cheng, Nicole de Voogd and Tan Koh Siang. 2008. A Guide to Sponges of Singapore. Singapore Science Centre. 173pp.
links | references | about | email Ria
Spot errors? Have a question? Want to share your sightings? email Ria I'll be glad to hear from you!
wildfactsheets website©ria tan 2008